All posts in “Gadgets”

Pixel 2 dethrones iPhone 8 Plus and Galaxy Note 8 in camera rankings

Well, that was quick! The iPhone 8 Plus had a short reign at camera testing outfit DxOMark as “the best smartphone camera we’ve ever tested” — the Galaxy Note 8 tied it after only a few weeks. And now Google’s Pixel 2 has bested them both.

Citing excellent video performance, great color and scene reproduction, incredibly fast and accurate autofocus, and good (if not great) artificial background blur, the Pixel 2 ended up with an aggregate score of 98, beating out the other two, which had tied at 94.

Now, the folks at DxOMark are experts, and I trust their determination here. There’s no doubt the Pixel 2 has an amazing camera. But as with other aggregate scores for things like DSLRs, games, movies and so on, the big number only tells part of the story (especially when it’s so close to the other big numbers).

The Pixel 2 has a slight edge on the iPhone 8 Plus in full crops like this.

Looking through the sample photos of all these flagship phones, you may find that you prefer the look one creates more than another’s — I certainly think Apple’s portrait mode looks much better than the others, and its luminance noise in tricky situations is preferable to me. Yet I like the Pixel 2’s color reproduction (and on its OLED screen the photos should pop). Yet again the zoom performance of the Note 8 is definitely superior.

What kind of photos do you take? What are your needs as a photographer? Will a zoom be an asset, or do you need an ultra-wide angle? Do you use the flash often? Are you willing to let an HDR mode do the work for you? If your phone is going to be your primary camera, it’s worth considering the qualities and shortcomings of that camera as much as the phone’s storage, screen resolution, color, and so on.

And lastly, it’s pretty clear that cameras are just going to get better from here. If you compare their results to those of a competent mirrorless today (that even with a lens may end up costing far less than a flagship phone) you will find them quite lacking. There’s lots of room to improve, and as DxOMark points out, there’s no reason their scores can’t go above 100.

Google Clips is a new $249 smart camera that you can wear

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Google debuted a product that basically no one saw coming at its big hardware event today: A camera called Clips. It’s not your typical camera, however – it’s designed essentially for passive use, as a way to help capture moments that you’d miss with a dedicated camera or your smartphone.

Clips grabs “motion photos,” the new picture format that Google created that includes some brief movement around the frame, like a Live Photo from Apple. It doesn’t grab audio, but it does have smart recognition features on board. It also doesn’t use any kind of network connection, so it’s not broadcasting the stuff it captures anywhere. You can connect to your phone to check what you’ve got.

It’s a twist on the lifelogging wearable camera, which included devices like the Narrative Clip, and it uses machine learning to key in on certain people and pets of your choosing and only capture them, so you don’t miss out on adorable moments. Clips is designed to be clipped anywhere, however, including around them house.


Here’s Google’s new Pixel 2 XL smartphone

Google unveiled the new Pixel 2 XL smartphone today, and the early leaks proved pretty much accurate: It’s a larger screened smartphone with a new body design that mostly eliminates the front bezels, with a back that bears a two-segment design with a glass upper portion and metal covering the remainder of the body.

The smartphone’s front face is a big improvement over the previous generation, putting all the attention on that display, which is a 6.0-inch diagonal pOLED screen with 2880 x 1440 resolution (538 ppi density), with wide color gamut in an 18:9 aspect ratio. It’s also protected by Gorilla Glass 5, Corning’s strongest glass for smartphones yet. The display also features always-on tech for constant display of info like the time and notifications.

As rumored, the Pixel XL 2 does ditch the headphone jack (a USB-C to headphone adapter is included in the box), and it also comes in 64 and 128GB storage options. Pixel 2 XL also features a ‘squeezable’ body, another feature reported prior to its release, which allows a user to simply apply pressure to the sides of the device in order to trigger Google Assistant. It also has front-facing stereo speakers, and an aluminum body.

The smartphone offers a front-facing camera with an 8 megapixel camera, and a rear-facing 12 megapixel camera with an f/1.8 aperture. The camera hardware is actually unchanged from last year, but it’s made better thanks to software advances by Google as well as the inclusion of optical image stabilization, for both photos and video.

It also has a portrait photo mode similar to the iPhone’s but it uses two sensors in close proximity gathering data from the single lens, since there’s only one on the camera. It works on both front and rear facing cameras, and Google says it’s available instantly, unlike the portrait mode on iPhone which requires a few seconds to perceive depth and frame the subject.


Google’s Home Max brings premium audio to its Assistant speaker

Google Home is getting bigger, in more ways than one: Google announced a few updates for its smart home speaker line, and one is the Home Max, a larger version that packs in stereo speakers and more premium looks and materials.

The new, larger Home speaker is clearly intended to be an answer to critics who suggested the original Home lacked good audio quality (myself included) by providing something for users who care more about sound. It’s also likely a move that will help address forthcoming competition for Home from Apple, which is set to launch its own Siri-enabled premium speaker, the HomePod, by the end of this year.

It can tune its audio to its own space, analyzing the sound coming from the speaker using its built in microphones to determine the best equalizer settings. This is called Smart Sound, and it evolves over time and based on where you move the speaker, using built-in machine learning. It has Cast functionality, as well as input via stereo 3.5 mm jack.

Home Max can output sound that’s up to 20 times more powerful than the standard version of Home, Google says, and it has two 4.5 inch woofers on board with two 0.7 inch custom-built tuners. It can sit in either vertical or horizontal orientation, and it comes in both ‘chalk’ and ‘charcoal.’

Of course, this bigger speaker also includes a noise isolating array that makes it work even in open rooms with background noise, and it’s Assistant-enabled, so you can use it to control your music playback via voice, or manage your smart home devices, set yourself reminders, alarms, and timers and much more.

Home Max is shipping in December in the U.S., with a retail price of $399, and a release in more markets coming next year. It’s bundled with a 1-year subscription to YouTube Red, too.


Google has sold 55M Chromecasts, and provided 100M+ answers via Assistant

Google announced on stage a few numbers to update its progress on its hardware program – the company said that it’s sold over 55 million Chromecast devices, and that it has provided over 100 million answers to users via Google Assistant, its voice-powered AI software.

The other success metric that Google noted was that its Google WiFi mesh networking router is the top-selling in that category in both the U.S. and Canada. It’s still a relatively young category, but there are lots of entrants now, so that’s impressive.

Google didn’t share any specific numbers on WiFi sales, however, nor did it reveal numbers for Pixel sales, though it said that the smartphone is selling well – despite Google not being able to make enough, even.

Analyst estimates suggest that Pixel sales weren’t huge (not by a long shot) but it’s a start, and apparently Google is still eager to continue the program.